The Year of Living Dyingly

May 10, 2011

To my writing classes I used later to open by saying that anybody who could talk could also write. Having cheered them up with this easy-to-grasp ladder, I then replaced it with a huge and loathsome snake: “How many people in this class, would you say, can talk? I mean really talk?” That had its duly woeful effect. I told them to read every composition aloud, preferably to a trusted friend. The rules are much the same: Avoid stock expressions (like the plague, as William Safire used to say) and repetitions. Don’t say that as a boy your grandmother used to read to you, unless at that stage of her life she really was a boy, in which case you have probably thrown away a better intro. If something is worth hearing or listening to, it’s very probably worth reading. So, this above all: Find your own voice.

I don’t quite know why I’m so grief-striken at what Christopher Hitchens (whom I’ve never met) is going through, aside from his being a fellow human, but this article hits me where I live. Perhaps the reason I’m choked up reading it is that I love to talk and have to write. As for Hitchens himself, the highest praise I can give him is that I always enjoy hearing him talk even when I abominate what he is saying.

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